Don’t Let Your Mind Derail Your Plot #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

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Thank you Raimey!


“I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest.”

~Venus Williams

Thoughts come and go. Topics often change like the wind. Depending on where we sit in any given moment, we might be completely focused on a task thinking about a scene and a character in this scene that has to get from A to B when before we know it, we get lost in the picture we’re seeing, the action we’re creating, or the back and forth dialogue unfolding as we type. We finish it. Maybe we reread and think, “Yes, this is it.” Maybe we have time to tackle another scene and we begin to … but a problem arises. The scene we just wrote didn’t happen like the plan. Suddenly the plot is derailed. The characters have shifted all out of whack. Now we have two different stories with thousands of words we’ve just written and we don’t want to cut them.

Ever been there?

Today, I’m sharing what I am doing to maximize my time with my new work in progress and stick to my goals. I’ve always been one to outline, but I’ve also been easily derailed by the shifting images in my head as I write.

  1. Note Cards. I started this technique this time with color coded tabs for each ACT. Each card has the Act and scene number at the top. A quick external or internal line is written on the front. On the back side I have listed the time, date and place, all the majors characters in play, and a two or three sentence plot summary. The last line on the card lists the impact whether I’m revealing a clue, leaving with a cliff hanger, or a question the protagonist must face. I can shift these cards. I can touch them. NEXT, I generate the digital outline.
  2. The Pages APP. Currently, I have retyped my outline from my note cards into this app. It gave me time to reprocess. I also came up with a few add-in scenes I missed the first go-round. I can also pull out my phone and take a peek on a lunch break or after work when my computer might not be handy.
  3. The 3-Ring Binder. This time, I’m printing my outline. I’m also printing off my character notes and keeping them handy right next to me as I write. I hope by keeping these pages in front of me and glancing at all the details before I start to write, I’ll eliminate distraction and focus on the end goal.
  4. Streamlining New Ideas. If a new idea happens to sneak in, I read about an APP to use: Remember the Milk. I came across it on an article on planning your novel. I’ve downloaded the app and I hope to use it and capture new ideas then compare them with what I currently have before I get lost in them. I’ll let you know next month how it pans out. 🙂

Question: Do you have any other great tidbits or ways to organize your writing that helps you stay on track? I’d love to hear them.

One last thought:

About Erika Beebe

Author, dreamer, and a momma to a couple of wonderful kids, I try to live life everyday in hope and inspire others along my way.

Posted on August 16, 2017, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 39 Comments.

  1. The note cards sound like a nifty idea I should try out 🙂 Right now my desk looks like some paper-loving pixie had gone through it and randomly tore pages out of notebooks and stuck post-its everywhere while scribbling ideas with whatever colour pen happened to be on hand. The only thing in my binder is the printed out MS. *sigh* Hopefully different projects didn’t get mixed together or I’ll be one very confused writer 😉

    • Hahaha! I love it Ronel. I can see your desk perfectly in my mind. Currently I don’t have a desk and am using the bar table in kitchen but hoping to get one before the year is over 🙂

  2. I’m always amazed by people who can plan their novels in advance. I’ve tried to make character sheets, outlines, etc, but novel always goes in a completely different direction.

  3. SOMEONE ELSE WHO USES BINDERS! I swear they’ve gone out of fashion or something but I still love all my binders dammit

  4. Hi! Love this. I use a spiral notebook that acts much like your three-ring binder!

    • Thank you Leslie! I have those too. I get frustrated though and want to rearrange my papers in the spiral so I like to punch holes in my paper and move them wherever I like. Happy writing 🙂

  5. I outline, and each paragraph from it is transferred to my chapter description. I use it as a reminder of where I am and what my goal is. If I add a chapter or two, I can do the reverse as well. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  6. I do all my writing and organizing on my computer. Scrivener is a great place to keep track of everything.

  7. Excellent advice! I use sticky tabs on a spiral notebook for organization when I’m revising. Each tab has a twin on my printed rough draft.

    As far as organization while brainstorming, I also love to outline; I’m just not as detailed. I like your notecard idea. Where do you store them?

  8. Love the organized way that you keep the story on track — hmmm…think my own work in progress could use a little corralling!

  9. I will definitely check out Remember the Milk and Pages. I have used Scrivener’s note cards similar to the way you use the physical cards, but I can definitely see the upside of a physical system too. I think working at a large-screen TV with a tray table sized desk really drives me to keep the physical representation of my work to a minimum. But there are times when nothing beats a little pen-on-paper time.
    Right now, I am trying to embrace One Note for both outlining, brain storming, and capturing ideas. It has some great functionality, including being able to clip direct from the internet. You can make different notebooks for different ideas and stories. I have the app for it on my phone as well so even without my computer I can look and modify it. It is showing some promise. But I would love to hear how Remember the Milk works for you.
    Thanks Erika!

  10. I use a physical binder for editing drafts, but it somehow never occurred to me to print out my bible to use while I’m working. I might have to give this a try!

  11. I did the note cards for my first MS, and my entire wall was filled them. Then I reverted to scene planning in an MS Word doc, which isn’t ideal because of all the scrolling and not as pretty as a wall filled with different colour note cards, I have to admit, but it seems to be working for me. I’m really interested in the apps you pointed out. Thanks, Erika!!!

  12. Oh wow! Such a useful little list. I’ve got to try out both of these apps. And it really would be a good idea for me to keep character notes on hand the next time I write a book. Seems like common sense but I never thought of having a paper copy (and I never even use my digital ones).

  13. I use Scrivener. So easy to keep notes and move information around. Other than that, I believe each story is different and demands a unique way to process.

  14. Louise@DragonspireUK

    I love the idea of note cards with Act and scene numbers. I’ll try that out when I start to plan for Novembers NaNoWriMo 🙂

  15. I admire your dedication to keep things organized. I wish I could. My characters are much too insistent. They take me places I never suspected. I’ve tried all kinds of outlining but it doesn’t work for me. Wish I could add to your list. As for me, once the characters get going the story unfolds.

    • Hi Joan. It’s always best to use the method most helpful to each of us. My mind is chaotic and messy at times and I have to keep my writing thoughts in line in order to steer the course 🙂

  16. Great ideas for staying on track. I use outlines, and I like keeping them flexible, but you’re right, Erika, that occasionally the mind takes liberties and runs off! I keep everything in Excel. I love the ability to add and delete rows, put notes in columns, drag things around. And the work-book allows me to keep multiple pages – a separate one for plot outline, character info, notes on the world, research, etc. It gives me one file for everything related to a story, but organized. 🙂

  17. Winston Churchill–so much better at talking than doing. What a great quote.

  18. Victoria Marie Lees

    Hello, Erika! This is my first time here. I’ll follow your blog and connect with your online.

    I’m a plotter, too, and I like to print things out to see it in hard copy. I sometimes get confused, clicking in and out of windows at the computer, looking at cards and drafts of my WIP.

    All the best to you!

  19. Thanks for this. A timely reminder that I need to be better about making notes on the random ideas that stop by.

  20. I gotta check this app, it may be something I was looking for. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  21. Hello Erika,

    I must say great post, full of great tips. I like titles , in sense when I want to write about something, I’ll write the title immediately, and text come after, in that moment.
    I have a very strange way of blogging. Before I sleep I tell to my subconscious “Give me a story”. And she always listens to me

  1. Pingback: Author Toolbox Blog Hop: A Year in Review – E.M.A. Timar

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